Note: This story appears in the Wednesday, Oct. 9 newspaper on Page A1.
When all is said and done, the reception area of the Southeast Ohio History Center will look just like Court Street.
Bricks lain on the floor, symbolic buildings etched into a nearby glass wall and even the light fixtures will resemble “Ohio’s most eccentric half-mile.” Such a look will be a fitting tribute to Eric Coon, a longtime employee of Cornwell Jewelers on Court Street who died a year ago.
A large gift from Coon’s estate and the Cornwell Foundation totaling $120,000 will pay for significant renovations to the History Center. It will create a reception area as mentioned, and rework the main hall of what used to be the First Christian Church.
The plan calls for leveling the main hall’s floor to make it an open space for exhibits and events. In between that open space and the reception area will be a large, glass wall, on which an interactive digital gallery will be showcased.
The donation and remodeling plans were outlined at a reception held last Thursday, Oct. 3 — Coon’s birthday. Many representing the Coon and Cornwell families were on hand, along with board members and supporters of the History Center. Officials also unveiled a jewelry store counter from Cornwell’s (which closed earlier this year) that has been installed in what will be the new reception area.
Jessica Cyders, the History Center’s executive director, said at the reception that Coon was a big supporter of the local museum. She hopes that the tribute to Coon will inspire “future leaders and generations” to continue improving the communities of Southeast Ohio.
Tom O’Grady, the director of development and outreach, described a goal to make the History Center a “destination” in this region.
“We’ve come a long way in a couple of years,” noting the 2017 move from Court Street to the grander church building on the nearby corner of State and Congress Streets.
Employees and volunteers have settled in, and the new museum building has already been host to numerous exhibits. One highlight is the “Community Exhibition Space,” which allows other historical groups from Southeast Ohio to bring in items for display. A recent example featured the Little Cities of Black Diamonds organization displaying an exhibit called “Sports in the Little Cities.”
Cyders, O’Grady and others want the History Center to take on a more interactive role for the public. This includes hosting more community events, conferences and seminars.
Along with the $120,000 from the Coon estate and the Cornwell Foundation, the History Center has also received a $100,000 state grant toward the remodeling project.
The plan is to begin construction work next January.